Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Enterprise - 36

Melissa lived on the Upper West, in a grand old Manhattan building with an awning and a name on it in cursive. In those first, giddy weeks of spring one of us would cross the park to see the other nearly every day. One morning I watched her from the Fifth Avenue bus as I rode to work and she walked home. She couldn’t have known I did. She angled up a little path that led into the trees and toward the meadow. She walked slowly, deliberately. No one and nothing awaited her on the other side. She seemed beautiful. I could not believe my good fortune.

We clasped hands across the table at Big Nick’s. She said, I’m so in love with you. For a moment I thought to myself: I’ve never been this happy. In the next my soul was shot with dread. How could I ever justify what she had said?

As our relationship progressed I discerned within myself a growing obsession to please her. I adopted an ingratiating persona. Why not? Was this not what she expected? Was it not what she deserved? Things seemed to be going well. Still, the effort to please her, to charm her, to seduce her left me exhausted, sometimes nearly out of breath. I became exquisitely self-conscious in her presence. When I opened my mouth to speak, I calibrated every word of every phrase, running a nonstop, internal commentary: Is this funny? Is this interesting? Is it what she wants to hear?

Deep down inside I apprehended a dark, dark truth: The harder I try, the worse it gets.